This Tokyo bakery hasn’t changed its curry bread recipe in nearly 100 years, and it doesn’t need to.
There are plenty of historical sites in Tokyo, such as Sensoji Temple, Meiji Shrine, and, of course, the vestiges of Edo Castle, which have been absorbed into the grounds of the present-day imperial palace. But we’re of the mind that the best kind of history is the history you can eat, and thankfully Tokyo delivers on that front too.
In quest to satisfy our hunger for culinary culture, we’ve previously dined at both Japan’s oldest tempura restaurant and also its oldest oyakodon (chicken and egg rice bowl) restaurant, both of which are found in Tokyo. Today, we’re stopping by yet another food history landmark, with a visit to the bakery Cattlea, located in Tokyo’s Koto Ward, near Morishita Station.
Appearance-wise, Cattlea looks pretty much like any other of the countless neighborhood bakeries that dot Japan’s urban landscape. However, you’ll notice a sign in front of the entrance touting its Ganso Curry Bread.
Ganso is the Japanese word for “original,” and while ganso sometimes gets tossed around in marketing talk as a substitute for “old-fashioned,” in Cattlea’s case the Ganso Curry Bread is meant literally, because this was the first bakery in all of Japan to make curry bread, which has since become a staple of bakeries across the country.
When it first went on sale back in the second year of the Showa era, 1927, Cattlea called its creation Yoshoku Bread (“Western cuisine bread”). Right from the start, it was a fist-sized piece of fried bread stuffed with curry, and Cattlea’s present-day bakers still use the exact same recipe, which hasn’t been changed at all in the 90-plus years since.
We bought one to take back to SoraNews24 headquarters, and as the cashier handed us our purchase, we were surprised at how heavy it was. For a second, we thought that maybe Cattlea had generously given us two for the price of one, but nope, inside the bag was a single weighty piece.
So why is Cattlea’s Ganso Curry Bread so heavy? Because unlike a lot of other bakeries’ curry breads, which have a thick outer shell of airy bread and just a dollop of curry at the center, Cattlea’s curry core is vast and voluminous, rewarding you with a veritable flood of curry as you bite into it.
Back at the office, obviously there was a lengthy debate about who should do the taste testing. Eventually, our Japanese-language reporter Seiji Nakazawa convinced us all that he was worthy of the honor, and his thoughts are:
“The curry roux, mixed with carrots, is delicious, and its smooth texture makes for a great contrast with the crisp outer surface of the fried bread.
As I look back on my life, I ask myself, ‘Have I ever had curry bread this delicious before?’
No. The answer is no. This is, without question, the best curry bread I’ve had in my entire life.”
Considering that curry bread is one of those ultra-reliable, even-when-it’s-bad-it’s-still-pretty-good kind of foods, this is high praise indeed. It turns out, though, that there’s a way to make Cattlea’s Ganso Curry Bread even more delicious, which is to stop by the bakery at 7 or 11 a.m., or 3 in the afternoon, which are the three times of day fresh batches come out of the fryer.
▼ Cattlea’s Curry bread time sign
But there’s really never a bad time to get bread this good, and at just 200 yen (US$1.85), there’s also no cheaper time machine to experience something people in Tokyo were enjoying almost 100 years ago just as it was back then.
Cattlea / カトレア
Address: Tokyo-to, Koto-ku, Morishita 1-6-10
Open 7 a.m.-7 p.m. (weekdays), 8 a.m.-6 p.m. (Saturday, holidays)